Originally I wrote this scene to show how a world anticipating its own destruction would begin to decay, making little things like a trip from DC to NYC become a trial. I finally decided to snip it out because while it was interesting, it really didn't add much to the storyline, and wasn't even really necessary for its purpose.
To set the story up a bit, the nation has already begun to fall apart, and flying is only for those who have clearance. The only option left for the hero is a train.
So now I invite you to enjoy...
Traveling in Armageddon
Michael expected to have to wait for a seat on a northbound train, but oddly, there were plenty of tickets headed into New York. Climbing aboard, he took a seat and studied his fellow passengers. There was a young mother clutching her infant son and sobbing; a businessman sitting in a corner with his head in his hands; a teenage boy whose gaunt face reminded Michael of pictures of the victims of the Holocaust. These were people who were trying to continue their lives, but who had been told that their lives were about to end. Not even left with the hope for a potential cure, they were left to shuffle through their remaining days in blank terror. In their minds, the doctor had given them all only three months to live.
Turning away he tried studying the landscape to avoid their eyes; eyes that recognized the life in Michael and seemed to desperately want to cling to it. From the reflection on the glass he could see that the teenage boy had turned his glazed stare from the blurred countryside to fix on the solidity of Michael. The boy stood there for several seconds assessing Michael, and then, as if he had reached a conclusion, the boy ambled forth. Turning from the window, Michael heard the boy begin speaking.
“Mister? You got any money, mister?” The boy began abruptly. “I don’t got no money and when I get to New York, I’m gonna need money.”
“I’m sorry, kid.” Michael stated calmly.
“You gotta help me, mister. You gotta give me some money?” The boy begged loudly. “You look like you got money an’ you ain’t gonna need it no mo’ so you gotta gimme some.” His whole stance was defiant, with his fists stuffed deeply into the pockets of his too-loose blue jeans as if to belie the fact that he was demanding a handout.
Dumbfounded, Michael looked at the boy. “No,” he said firmly.
The boy’s face lost its soft and vacant look. He wasn’t used to being challenged when he made demands. “What d’ya mean, ‘No’?”
“I mean, ‘No, I don’t have to give you any money,’ and ‘No, I don’t have to help you.’” Michael replied calmly. The other passengers were slowly moving away from what they saw as a confrontation that could end badly.
“I said that you gotta help me,” the boy stated impertinently. “Just fork over a twenty or somethin’ to tide me over. I said I need it, so you hafta give it to me.”
“No.” Michael slowly repeated. “If you’ve got a knife or a gun, you are welcome to try and take it, but I will not be forking anything over to you.”
The boy’s demeanor changed from belligerent thug to petulant little boy. “You don’t hafta talk to me that way. I need help and you won’t give it to me. You know what you are, mister? You’re a selfish bastard.” The boy spat and then, as if he had said the magic words that would cow Michael into submission, he held out his hand for the money he was certain would be placed into it.
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Michael calmly stated.
Glancing at his fellow passengers, the boy desperately looked for someone to back him up, but found each of them trying desperately to feign interest in anything else to avoid having to look at him. “You’re all selfish!” the boy shouted. When he noticed that no one was rushing to his side to acquiesce to his tantrums, he grumbled and turned back toward the window. Michael continued to watch him intently, but the boy was no longer any cause for concern.
The rest of the trip passed without incident and Michael had time to marvel at the coming spring. He had always loved this time of year, when the trees began to outfit themselves with their first bright green buds. The brown of winter was tipped with color for the first time in months, and the world was coming alive again.
Before too long, the train stopped. He looked at his watch and noted the time. It was obvious that they were still outside of the city, but according to the train schedule, they were not due to make any stops between Washington and New York. As the other passengers began to disembark, Michael reached out to touch the arm of a man who was making his way toward the door. “What’s going on?” He asked.
The man shrugged off Michael’s hand and said, “They aren’t allowing trains into New York anymore. You’d better hurry if you want to catch a cab. There usually aren’t enough to go around. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” With that he scurried quickly through the opening and out onto the platform, disappearing into the gathering herd of people.
Michael collected his things and followed. True to the word of his unwilling informant, few cabs were left outside of the station. He chose the best of the ones remaining and climbed in.
“Where to, dude?” The youthful cab driver barked out. He didn’t look old enough to have a driver’s license much less the job of cabbie, but Michael could see that the only other taxicabs at the station were already departing with their fares.
Grudgingly, he accepted that he had no other choice if he wanted to get to the city by nightfall. “Times Square. The headquarters of NBS.”
The cabbie chuckled. “It’s double the usual fare to go into the city, dude. Fifty dollars, in advance.”
Michael reached into his wallet handed the scruffy young man a bill. The boy grabbed it in his grubby fingers and stuffed it into his jeans. “Sure thing, dude. Times Square.” When he reached forward and started the meter, Michael could see that it still had a fare on it from the boy’s last customer, but he did not feel like arguing over the amount. The boy misjudged his irritated look. “Jus’ so ya know. I ain’t gouging. They tol’ us we could charge double. Like, it’s haz’rd pay, dude.”
Stay tuned for the rest of this scene...